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Greg Growden
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After more than 30 years with The Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax Media in Australia, Greg Growden now writes exclusively online for ESPNscrum. Never afraid to step on toes, you can expect plenty of compelling insight from one of Australia's most renowned rugby writers.
Greg Growden writes ...
Rugby hard enough, then there's referees
Greg Growden
September 16, 2013
Monsieur Poite endured a "monstre" in Auckland © Getty Images
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Thankfully the Twittersphere provided us with enough hilarity and common sense to stop us going completely bollicky on Saturday night. How else could we have coped with a highly anticipated duel between the two best teams in the world ruined by inept refereeing followed by an also-ran skirmish marred by horrible weather conditions and even worse skills?

In the end, the highlight of the night was the Twitter observation of Doug Golightly, wily Kiwi lawn bowler with a menacing backhand on-shot, and legendary media man who for years transformed the NZ Truth sport's section into obligatory reading, especially around Auckland Sexpo time.

South Africa's Bismarck du Plessis monsters New Zealand's Dan Carter, New Zealand v South Africa, The Rugby Championship, Freedom Cup, Eden Park, Auckland, September 14, 2013
Bismarck du Plessis sunk Dan Carter without a trace, but Romain Poite cared not that the hit was legal © Getty Images
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Golightly, an inquisitive historian who knows as much as any other New Zealander about the infamous Rainbow Warrior affair, was referring to the French farce that was the Auckland Test transformed completely by referee Romain Poite's exploding head. This is the only way to explain Poite's decision to sending Springboks hooker Bismarck du Plessis to the sin-bin for a perfectly legitimate tackle on All Blacks pin-up boy Daniel Carter? The later red card to du Plessis just added to the lunacy, effectively ending any hope of South Africa winning this contest. The competition, the spectacle, was yet again stuffed up by the inadequacies of the adjudicator.

In the second half, Poite actually forgot the scrum call, prompting another infuriating punctuation mark to a Test that had lost its way. Then again there's nothing new in overseas referees being intimidated and swayed by All Blacks fans baying for blood at Eden Park; the Rugby World Cup 2011 final immediately comes to mind.

Over in Perth, merry Welshman Nigel Owens also appeared inclined to give the home team a leg-up. And they certainly needed it when Argentina sailed home with the Fremantle Doctor whipping up their backside; the Pumas failed to win their first match in The Rugby Championship only through sheer stupidity.

When Perth decided to resemble a whirlpool, this Test was never going to be much, especially as both teams had lost the knack of knowing what is required to win.

So in such depressing circumstances and conditions, it went down to who made the least blunders - and Australia just won that battle of the duds. No wonder numerous Twitterers moaned after the game. The general theme was: "Thank goodness no more Wallabies home Tests for 2013. Relief at last."

Israel Folau added to his impressive try-scoring record © Getty Images
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Australia's Kane Douglas controls the maul , Australia v Argentina, Rugby Championship, Paterson's Stadium, Perth, Australia, September 14, 2013
The Perth Test became an arm-wrestle © Getty Images
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There were still redeeming features about the Wallabies' triumph, and Ewen McKenzie's first Test victory. Not a lot. But they were there. Nic White held up well; the defence was vastly improved, especially in the final quarter when the Pumas opted for the headless chook philosophy in their bid to get over the hosts' line; and Australia succeeded in sticking to the simplest - the "dumbest" - of game plans. Even Blind Freddie would have been able to follow what the Wallabies were up to - with the wind play territory in the first half, and "just hang on" running into a hurricane in the second.

Then again, Blind Freddie did make an appearance for the Wallabies, immersing himself in the middle of the Australian scrum and contributing little as the Pumas pack minced them into chipolatas; it was yet another abominable Wallabies scrum performance.

And there were other silly Wallabies moments, which indicate they struggle big time under pressure. What was the point of the Wallabies going for a field goal in the final minutes when you are slam bam in front of a wind machine? All it did was give the Pumas unnecessary possession.

Argentina just had to keep their heads in the final minutes, and they should have got the required points. Instead, they lost their structure, made silly decisions, allowed Owens back into the contest, and the moment was lost.

The Wallabies traditionally have lost in conditions such as those in Perth © Getty Images
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As for the Wallabies: does victory mean they are on the way back? Not exactly, as their scrum is too poor to threaten anyone. Okay we'll say it for the 4000th time: Bring back Benn Robinson! Then they just may have a bit of a chance - not a big chance, though - of redeeming themselves in Cape Town and Rosario.

Sadly, however, the results also revolve around the man who owns the whistle. Hopefully the International Rugby Board gives the pea to someone who knows how to use it properly. The Twitterers are on their marks, waiting …

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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